Sitting down to write this I wasn't sure whether it would turn
out to be an article about how good endurance bikes have become in
recent years, or how much older I've got! For the last five years
or so I've been a bit of a bike snob and only ridden the raciest,
most aggressive "Pro Tour" kind of bikes; for instance choosing a
Tarmac over a Roubaix and the Madone rather than the
Over the past year or so this has changed, and some of the very best bikes I've ridden have been in the "Endurance" category. So what has changed? Are the bikes getting better, or am I getting older, or is it a mixture of both?
I don't think it's so much an age thing, but it's certainly true that if you prioritise riding longer distances then bigger tyres and compliance become ever more important. Ride quality and a comfortable but efficient position mean riding further, harder, for longer.
But the key change I've seen over the last year has been in the sheer all-round quality of these new bikes. For instance the new Roubaix and the latest Domane are simply amazing; they are genuine performance bikes that just happen to be comfortable too. These are not the poor relations to their aero-road cousins any more...
above: Barry's own S-Works Roubaix Team - with the most aggressive geometry in the Roubaix family.
Tyre and wheel technology also helps. In the past they'd typically be running 23-25mm tyres, and so the frame needed to have workarounds such as the "Zertz" elastomer inlays on the original Roubaix. The problem with that you were always conscious it was there in the background, and the bike always felt a little less sharp to me as a result.
Now the damping technology is much more sophisticated and more efficient, often with adaptable compliance that the rider can tweak "on the go" based on their riding preferences, parcours, etc. This adjustability means that you can easily dial in just the right amount of damping, so your ride is more comfortable but you don't even notice it's there.
above: Trek's latest Domane happily runs tyres up to 38mm in width.
And you can run simply massive tyres - up to 36-38mm on many bikes - which is verging on gravel bike territory. With a larger volume of air, lower rolling resistance and improved cornering feel there's really no downside to going for wider tyres on anything but the most weight-weenie of climbing bikes.
Geometry has also changed. In the past the term "endurance bike" usually meant a relaxed geometry bike, with a shorter reach and longer stack height making for a more upright riding position, often accompanied by a longer wheelbase and lower centre of gravity.
But now the big brands are offering the same endurance technology in a choice of either relaxed or more aggressive geometry (for instance the latest S-Works Roubaix, and S-Works Roubaix Team).
To use my favourite analogy - performance cars - much like the Paris Dakar Porsche 959 (right) endurance bikes are now race bikes that have been adapted for the specific roads and terrain of the Northern European classics.
Fortunately these are the same sort of roads we find ourselves with here in the UK, so they provide a particularly welcome range of options.
In the past the bikes the Pros rode in Paris-Roubaix were very different from the ones you and I could buy. For instance the last Specialized Roubaix was only offered to the public in disc brake form, but Peter Sagan won on a bike that had caliper brakes.
However, in the most recent 2019 edition of the race Philippe Gilbert won on a Team Edition Roubaix that used the exact same frameset which is available to us all (and which I own myself!).
above: The 2020 Trek Domane features easily adjustable IsoSpeed suspension built neatly into the top tube.
Trek are similarly offering their sublime Domane frameset in either comfort-focused "Endurance" or more aggressive race-ready "Pro Endurance" geometry via their Project One programme (available, of course via Bespoke).
As we move into 2020 I find myself thinking about which bike(s) I most want to buy next... and increasingly it's the Endurance models that are most appealing.
The latest Roubaix is lighter than a Venge, more aerodynamic than a Tarmac and yet much more compliant than either of them. Talk about having your cake and eating it!
above: The S-Works Roubaix has adjustable front suspension, yet still comes in under 900g for the frameset in 56cm size.
As the UCI maintains its insistence that bikes cannot weigh under 6.8kg progress on that front remains limited... bikes are not getting much lighter than they were five years ago.
However, bikes are getting much much better; better braking, better tyres and wheel combinations, integrated power meters and much more comfortable...
Instead of Endurance bikes being the awkward cousin of most brand families they have been given a new lease of life, and I love what are in my opinion some of the most impressive and versatile bikes in our portfolio. Not something I thought I'd be saying as we approach 2020!
Check out the featured framesets in our online Bike Builder and build your dream endurance bike:
If you'd like to learn more about these, or any of our portfolio of world-class endurance bikes, pop in and see us in-store, email, or give us a call: Contact Us
above: Wilier's Cento10NDR uses a thoroughly modern take on the elastomer insert concept to build a vibration-absorbing frame that doesn't skimp on stiffness where needed.
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